Fill Critical Vacancies, Mr. President!

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opinion

There is no doubt that this is a tough time for the Nigerian leader who has just survived some health challenges. There have been some unresolved issues at the political party platform too: The governing party has not been able to hold its midterm convention according to their constitution. It was once reported that the party chieftains have been waiting for the president’s arrival from the United Kingdom where he was receiving treatment. Curiously, in Nigeria’s political party management culture, the president is the national leader of the party.

In the same vein, at the state level, the governors lead and manage the political parties in power. So, the ruling party members who obviously have a lot of inconclusive matters at state levels are still waiting for the president to get ready for the convention.There are also reports of investigation panels the president constituted including the one, which inquired into allegations of corrupt practices against the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). The two public officers have been on suspension, in this connection, since April this year.

The report of the presidential panel chaired by the Vice President has been with the president since August 23 this year. Added to this has been another investigation panel on alleged abuse of office by the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). That has been a ministerial issue, which, of course, would require presidential action in the end since the CEO of the NHIS at the centre of a probe, is an appointee of the president.

Meanwhile, there is a subsisting tussle with the Senate over confirmation of presidential nominees. There are some nominees that the Senate has stalled because of the presidency’s recourse to the court to determine if the president indeed needs confirmation for his nominees according to Section 171 of the constitution. The waiting began more than three months ago when the nomination of the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was stalled at the Senate. An unnecessary corollary to this is the intervention of Chairman of a Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Professor Itse Sagay, who has been having some heated exchanges with the Senate, which has claimed that the president’s man has been insulting the Upper Chamber.

The law professor has repeatedly said that the Senate that failed to confirm the EFCC Chairman was sleazy. The same Professor Sagay has attacked the executive committee (EXCO) of the governing party (APC). Quite rightly, some executive committee members of the party have reminded the professor that his regular attacks on state institutions and the party would not do the presidency and the party any good. Professor Sagay, himself, an appointee of the president, has been described as arrogant adviser and “rogue elephant” by aggrieved party members. This response followed the professor’s remark that the ruling party was made up of “the most unprincipled group of people” who were “encouraging and accepting rogues in the party.” These are part of the headaches of the president at the moment.

There are other unresolved issues in the news of the seemingly complicated presidency. There has also been a reported rift between the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu. Also reported is an ancient power tussle between the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and the Minister of State, Hadi Sirika. But the mother of all tussles is the latest one between the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources and the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). This is assuming a worrisome political dimension. But most editorials on the subject including this newspaper’s have blamed the complications on the convoluted structure in the petroleum resources ministry headed by the president himself. The nation is still waiting for the president’s strategy for the resolution of the crisis.

Of all the issues raised here, the most significant the presidency should attend to as matter of priority, is the expediency of filling some critical vacancies and removing the clogs in the wheels of Senate confirmation of his nominees. The most critical is the SGF’s. The office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, a creation of the constitution, has been vacant since April 19 when the occupant, Mr. Babachir David Lawal was suspended on corruption allegation. The office is the engine room of the presidency.

The Chief of Staff to the President and other personal staff to the President cannot replace the SGF who is the Secretary to the Executive Council of the Federation. The SGF is also the Secretary to the Security and Defence Council. Besides, he is the Head of the Cabinet Secretariat who also coordinates the public service including the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF). That is why the Permanent Secretary that has been acting as SGF, Dr. Habibat Lawan cannot be operationally efficient because she still reports to the Head of Service who should conventionally report to the SGF, in this regard.

It makes sense therefore to say that recent complications arising from the presidency are traceable to the absence of a substantive SGF. That vacancy should be resolved immediately. There are too many acting officers including the Chairman of the EFCC and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). The president has a responsibility to resolve all these inconclusive issues including the one with the Senate to ensure that his nominees are confirmed. The presidency cannot wait for judicial resolution of whether the Senate should confirm nominees forever. The idea of Acting SGF, Acting Chairmen of EFCC (since 2015), Acting Chairman of ICPC, Acting Chairman of the Federal Civil Service Commission (FCSC), Acting Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) etc, after two and half years in office for a four year tenure is not a good testimony at this time. There are just too many ‘actors’ on the presidential stage. It is time to bring in substantive men women.

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